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Today's things may be tomorrow's trash

Wednesday - 10/23/2013, 2:32am  ET

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If a device existed to automatically translate languages - would there be a need to learn new ones? (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

WASHINGTON - Many of the things the world relies on today will likely be gone by 2030.

Members of the Bethesda-based World Future Society have put together a list of what they think are the most important of these disappearing things, and WTOP is profiling them in a series of reports.

The Society's Patrick Tucker talked to WTOP in-depth about the list and what the future has in store.


Soon, everyone may own one.

Google is even, reportedly, working on it's own: A universal translating device.

Anyone familiar with "Star Trek" or "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" knows such a gadget can wipe out all language barriers.

Members of the World Future Society predict the gadgets will be commonplace by 2030 - but it comes with downsides.

Instant translation might make people less willing to truly understand other cultures, leading to new conflicts.

Also, thousands of the world's languages that are used today will, most likely, stop being spoken.

But for now, Tucker says consider learning Chinese.

"The ability to speak both Chinese and English would allow one to communicate, according to John Copper, with about half the people on the planet. And he forecasts that that figure will grow to about 60 percent or more within 15 years."

"Many predict that China's going to be the world's dominant economic power or military power within two or three decades," adds Tucker.


Even those who love their jobs should be ready to find a new one in 10 or 20 years.

Futurist Thomas Frey predicts about half the world's jobs, more than two billion of them, will likely disappear by 2030 and be replaced by entirely new jobs.

"He specifies that this is not intended to be sort of a doom and gloom scenario. He wants to wake people up and alert them to the new skill sets that we'll need in the future," said Tucker.

Technology will fuel the change. For instance, once self-driving cars hit the road as many futurists expect, buses, taxis, limos and delivery trucks won't need drivers anymore.

Also, 3-D printers will allow many goods to be created in the same place where they are sold, eliminating the need for factories, warehouses and trucks to carry the goods from one place to another.

"Everybody in the workforce, it would serve you well to adapt a somewhat entrepreneurial mindset," Tucker said.

"We have to become much better, much quicker at connecting people with new opportunities to both learn, to make money and to create after the dissolution of some vocation or occupation that they were previously in. And we have to help people understand the virtue of this sort of flexibility, and we have to create institutions around furthering that flexibility."

Another prediction is that by 2030, no one will be paid by the hour anymore. Instead, everyone will be paid according to what they accomplish.

Education system

In a typical public school, kids who are about the same age sit in rows of desks. But the future of education may look very different.

"We're going to outgrow the factory model of education that we've had for a very long time," said Tucker.

Thanks to recent findings, he said segregating students by age no longer makes sense.

"Kids actually learn by teaching other people; teaching people outside of their age groups."

In a study done in 2012, boxfuls of solar-powered tablet computers loaded with educational apps were left in two remote African villages without instructions. Fairly quickly, the young people in the villages taught themselves how to use the tablets, taught their parents how to use them and even hacked the tablets' operating systems.

Some futurists predict that, within a decade or so, grade point averages and high school diplomas will go away.

Students will be able to learn at their own pace, earning certificates or badges for individual skills as they go.

"I think that a lot of educators or educational institutions around the world are going to be confronted by the fact that methods of educating, methods of teaching that they've relied on since their foundation have been rendered completely and totally obsolete," Tucker said.

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